What happens when everything feels stripped away from what you thought you were and you’re left with nothing but yourself in a mostly stay-at-home quarantined state due to a pandemic? In my case, something that’s made me feel exceptionally uncomfortable and extremely depressed.
Prior to the onslaught of the COVID-19 virus, I was doing my best to live out the underlying purpose of the 12th Step. Averaging somewhere between 20 and 30 hours a week in addiction recovery work, I very much enjoyed doing my best to “carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all of our affairs.” But since this pandemic has forced many of us to stay at home more than not, I’ve been averaging at the most a few hours of addiction recovery work in any given week now. While I’ve had regular communications and meetings via digital platforms, it just hasn’t felt the same. This forced isolation has truly left me feeling totally directionless, frustrated, and questioning the point of my very existence. Part of that is because I also haven’t had a paying job in a very long time and any attempt I’ve sought for even part-time employment that I could handle with my health issues hasn’t worked out. But, I chose to accept that this is what my Higher Power wanted, for me to give back for a while, and so I have, which is why I’ve done my best to live and breathe the 12 Steps. Essentially, 12 Step recovery work has become my entire life, my only purpose, and the very reason on most days to keep on going.
As this COVID-19 pandemic grew worse though, my 12 Step work began drying up, leaving me feeling stripped of the only purpose I feel God has given me over the past decade and keeping me mostly at home. And even though I know remaining at home has been helping to keep others healthy and safe, I haven’t been feeling all that healthy and safe. I’ve actually felt tempted to give in to former addictions, chiefly late at night, just to cope, and my mental health feels like it’s beginning to waver now as well. Even the way I’ve been looking at myself seems to be suffering again, as I’ve found myself criticizing the way I look and picking apart every little blemish. All this because I’ve been feeling stripped away to nothing.
The fact is, if I can’t do my normal recovery work right now, what am I supposed to do? I can only clean my house so much and household projects have only gone so far. While I don’t foresee this pandemic lasting indefinitely, it’s really made me wonder, are all these negative feelings I’ve been having about myself been there all the time below the radar so to speak? Is this forced stay-at-home quarantine only revealing what has always been there within me? If that’s the case, I have no idea how to overcome any of these newly surfaced feelings about myself. Basically, I’ve come to realize I don’t have enough self-love for myself. Up until this pandemic, my only solution in creating self-love was in my doing, not in my being.
Thich Nat Hahn once said “We have a tendency to think in terms of doing and not in terms of being. We think that when we are not doing anything, we are wasting our time. But that is not true. Our time is first of all for us to be. To be what? To be alive, to be peaceful, to be joyful, to be loving. And that is what the world needs most.”
So, is it possible to just exist, to just stay home and still be happy and love myself? Yes and I know that being on this hamster wheel of constantly feeling like I have to do something has been getting me nowhere but leaving me feeling angry and empty.
In the end, I want to be ok with this feeling of being stripped away to nothing, which means learning how to love myself a lot more and learning how to love myself as God loves me, as I know in doing so I’ll be able to be at peace no matter what comes my way that forces me to stay home or be alone, like a pandemic or anything else…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson